‘Heaven and Earth’ is about the lengths people will go to protect the people they love. Will you move ‘heaven and earth’ to save your wife? To find a way back to your husband? To do what is necessary for your family? All these questions are addressed in episode ten of Season 3 of Outlander. This episode is noticeably better than last week’s offering and marks a change of pace in the series as the story starts to get exciting with the increase in action, but also still allowing ample time for character development.
In true Outlander fashion, the episode starts out with a scene that has already been portrayed (Claire’s (Caitriona Balfe) abduction on the British Man-o-War, The Porpoise) in last week’s episode, except this time we see it from Jamie’s point of view. It is a compelling scene full of high drama. Sam Heughan does a brilliant job of acting panicked, worried and furious all at the same time as Jamie watches the ship his wife is held captive on, fade from view. He is restrained by Captain Raines (Richard Dillane) when he attempts to instruct The Artemis to pursue The Porpoise and is sent below decks to be held captive himself.
Jamie is willing to do anything it takes to save Claire. Knowing that she is no danger from the typhoid, due to her immunity from vaccinations, it is rather her safety on a boat full 300 strange men that he is concerned about. This is a nice nod to one of the running themes throughout Outlander; the world of the 18th Century was simply not a safe place for women, no matter how educated or capable they were.
Jamie’s desperation to be reunited with his wife is expressed in his passionate and impulsive nature. This is something the writers of Outlander have fleshed out in previous seasons. Jamie has never been completely rational where Claire’s safety is concerned and in ‘Heaven and Earth’ this leads to some powerful scenes between Jamie and his adopted son Fergus (César Domboy). While Jamie is imprisoned in the bowls of The Artemis, he begs, emotional blackmails and petitions Fergus to set him free so he can stage a mutiny and rescue Claire. Jamie cruelly offers to grant his blessing for Fergus to marry Marsali (Lauren Lyle) if the young man will help Jamie gain his freedom.
The scenes between these two characters are powerful, showing what a man will risk to protect those he loves. While Jamie is willing to risk his personal safety and the safety of those around him, Fergus is willing to give up his own happiness and fight temptation for everyone concerned. His love stretches beyond Marsali, as he tries to protect both Jamie and Claire. It is a testament to the writers of Outlander that they have charted the development of a mischievous boy into a sensitive and brave young man.
It is not just the male characters that shine in this episode. Claire is truly in her element as she attempts to the stem the flow of typhoid aboard The Porpoise. She is confident as a ship’s surgeon, giving orders and putting in place measures to prevent the spread of infection, such as making sailors wash their hands in alcohol. The introduction of an epidemic into the series allows for a welcome exploration of medical science from a completely 18th century point of view. This is an era where the understanding of germs and diseases was in its infancy. The crew of The Porpoise no more understand how a healthy man can be a carrier for typhoid than why they need to wash their hands in grog after touching the sick men. Claire has to battle against this ignorance and some of the best scenes take place in the bowls of the ship as she fights to contain the outbreak.
The scenes of the sick sailors below decks are effectively ugly. Groaning men swing in hammocks in the dark above a wet slimy floor covered in vomit and excrement. The lighting is murky and dim. Essentially the entire crew are trapped on a floating hell of disease and contagion that no man can escape from. The cinematography is very clever in these scenes filming only a few actors but making the scene look like it contains many more with rows upon rows of hammocks fading into darkness.
There is one beacon of light for Claire in this diseased hell, the introduction of midshipman Elias Pound (Albie Marber). Elias is 14 years old but confident despite his young years. Due to the nature of naval ranks, where upper-class or educated officers could often be very young when they first went to sea, Elias is essentially a boy who has to order around adult seamen who are twice or three times his age. To do this effectively he has had to grow up very quickly and the amount of death aboard The Porpoise does not phase him. The only grief he shows is when a friend from home dies. Claire and Elias form a strong bond almost immediately and their blossoming friendship is a joy to watch.
But this is Outlander, where supporting characters are almost always sacrificed even if they are well conceived and compelling. In a very cliched twist, Elias gives his lucky rabbit foot charm to Claire to protect her, signifying rather non-subtly that he is doomed. Sure enough he catches typhoid and promptly dies. Despite the inevitability of Elias’ demise, his death is affecting and sad, with Claire grieving over his corpse like a mother would for her lost son.
The episode returns to its themes of self-sacrificing love in the last few moments, this time concentrating on Claire and the lengths she is willing to go to protect Jamie. A sailor on board The Porpoise called Harry Tompkins (Ian Reddington) has recognised Jamie and knows he is wanted for sedition and suspected for murder (remember the unfortunate man who was hidden in a barrel of Crème de menthe a few episodes ago?) by the British authorities. Harry turns out to be the henchman of Sir Percival Turner, and we last saw him burning down Jamie’s print shop. Claire, in a move that is particularly devious, ensures Harry is locked up after convincing everyone he is another typhoid carrier. It seems that she has no problem lying or falsely imprisoning someone to protect her husband.
Claire’s greatest act of bravery for Jamie is reserved for the very last scene of the episode where she leaps overboard to try to swim to the nearest port. Set at night, the scene is spectacularly dramatic and the ocean looks frighteningly vast, dark and cold. But Claire has always been willing to risk her personal safety for love and Outlander once again proves that bravery is a virtue that belongs not just to the men of the series but to the women as well.
Outlander Season 3 is now airing on Amazon Prime. Let us know what you think of the season.